You can never have enough handy little boxes in your home, and if you should have one with extra protection, all the better! That is how the idea to make a Gorgon-lidded box came about: it is a must for every household. Use it for hiding your most valuable treasures, but don’t forget to take the necessary precautions. You don’t want to turn to stone yourself!
In Greek mythology, Gorgons usually appear as scary looking creatures with a deadly gaze: whoever sets eyes on their terrifying faces, sharp tusks, lolling tongues and snake-ridden hair, will immediately turn to stone. Even the hero Perseus required a trick to cut off the head of Medusa, the only mortal of the Gorgons, to avoid turning to stone: he used the reflection in the shield given to him by Pallas Athena to be able to look at her. The Gorgoneion or Gorgon head was a popular motif in ancient art: the frightening face of Medusa often decorated buildings, weapons, vessels, and jewelry, thereby protecting their owners.
First, you will need to make the body of the box. For this, find a paper tube lying around, paint the inside completely black, then cover the outside with a dark (brown or black) foam sheet.
You can use the same foam sheet to make the bottom and lid of the box. By tracing around the outlines of your paper tube you will have just the right size.
Here comes the tricky part. To make the Gorgon head you can either:
a) be brave and design your own (but make sure to look up a few Gorgons beforehand!), or
b) stay safe and copy an existing design of your choice.
By choosing the first option you get to have full creative freedom, by choosing the second you get to closely examine even the smallest details. Would I have noticed, for example, the slight asymmetry of my chosen Gorgon’s tusks had I not carefully traced her teeth?
Those of you who chose the second option (like I did) can use a tracing paper to draw the outlines of the face. Then cut out the shape of the face using your paper tube for scale. I used an orange foam sheet in keeping with the colour scheme of Greek vases, but if you’d like a more fantastical Gorgon, feel free to experiment with more daring colours. Next, place your design above the foam sheet and draw over it again, this time applying more pressure, and you will have the faint outline of the Gorgon’s face, which will make it easier to finalise the details.
Don’t worry if your Gorgon looks a bit like a blotched clown at this point. The silly face will soon appear much more Gorgon-like. Just give it a tongue, some hair, and white teeth complete with tusks. Then cut out some little snakes to go around the edges (I needed sixteen of them to go round my 8-centimetre tube).
Finally, glue the snakes onto the lid, then do the same with the face. Congratulations! Your box is now complete, and your last two chocolate cookies perfectly safe!
The inspiration for this box came from a red-figure vase in the British Museum. It was made around 490 BC in Athens and was found in Etruscan Tarquinia; it has been in the British Museum since 1867. It is not a box (pyxis) but a hydria or water jar: although not shown in the image, it has a third handle opposite the Gorgoneion, which was once used for pouring water.
You may also use these beautiful Gorgons in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, for inspiration!
Gorgons in the gallery at the top:
East Greek terracotta aryballos shaped as a helmeted head, 600–575 BC. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 41.162.74. Source: www.metmuseum.org (Public Domain).
Bronze shield decorated with a Gorgoneion, 6th century BC. Olympia, Archaeological Museum. Source: www.wikipedia.org (Public Domain).
South Italian terracotta antefix with a Gorgon’s head, ca. 540 BC. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 39.11.9. Source: www.metmuseum.org (Public Domain).